There is a term used in art called "chiaroscuro," It refers to the contrast between light and dark, and it comes from the Italian words "chiaro" (clear, light) and "oscuro" (obscure, dark). I first learned about it in my undergrad art history class and heard it again later when I worked at a newspaper. We were running a story about that year's national spelling bee winner, and “chiaroscuro" was the winning word. For some reason, it's always stuck with me (partly because it’s fun to say out loud).
A few years ago, a friend and I met for coffee. I was facilitating a weekly support group for artists through my creativity coaching business at the time. My friend had attended the group and said she wanted to share a critique. The problem, she said, was that I didn't acknowledge how hard it is to make art. Art is hard, she assured me, not easy. To me, my friend's words sounded like the reflection of a deeply held negative belief about creativity and the world that I didn't share.
I did agree with her opinion to a certain extent, though, because I am drawn more toward the "chiaro” than the “oscuro” side of things. Although both perspectives are important, I think everyone naturally gravitates toward one pole or the other. I'm more Luke Skywalker than Darth Vader, and in the rare moments when I do put on my Vader helmet, it's not a pretty sight.
Staying true to my principles, I chose to respond to my friend's comments this way: "My goal with this group is to show people for one hour a week that things can be different, even if for just that one hour. If one person who needs to hear that message gets it, I have done my job." Illumination is one of the gifts I have to give the world. It's up to the other person whether or not they want to accept it or not, which is fine. It won't stop me, however, from expressing my true belief that hope and joy are possible.
Today it feels like we are in dark, unbalanced times; perhaps we’re in the middle of an “oscuro” era. The world feels uncertain and the path is unclear. If you are a natural light seeker, please reflect yourself brightly and without shame. We need you now. And if you feel a deeper communion with your shadow side, share your experience so we can understand and connect with you. Everyone has dark and light inside of them, and we all have a choice how we want to use that energy.
When it does feel like the world is tilting too far toward despair and choosing hope seems impossible, please think on this...
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it — always.” ―Mahatma Gandhi
A post of mine was recently published on the blog for the Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma, where I see clients in private practice. The post talks about why hobbies are important and how you can find one that works for you. If you don't have a favorite hobby already, or even if you do and you want some encouragement to continue, check it out here.
P.S. If you are looking for a safe, comfortable space to be creative with others, our drop-in group Coffee & Creativity begins Monday, Aug. 8.
Rachel Moore, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapy in San Diego, CA. Rachel helps writers, artists, musicians, and other creative types overcome anxiety and trauma. She is certified in EMDR therapy and also trained in Brainspotting.